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Love, Sex, and Marriage in Ancient and Middle Ages


Human society is a complex phenomenon that implies the coexistence of a great number of individuals characterized by different feelings, points of view, attitudes, etc. However, there are still some aspects that unite people and contribute to the creation of the mentality that conditions the appearance of some common beliefs and values. These impact the socially accepted behavior and form public opinion.

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However, the nature of society implies constant development which means the appearance of new values and perspectives on a certain issue. This fact could be evidenced by numerous examples from the history of society when the attitude to a certain controversial or important question changed in the course of the development of human thought and some important social institutions. Besides, the investigation of these alterations might provide credible information related to the most important shifts in priorities.


If to speak about the difference in approaches to a certain issue, love could be considered one of the most discussed and investigated themes. Being one of the core aspects of human nature, it provides the basis for numerous debates related to its character and manifestations. The situation is also complicated by the absence of the precise definition of this term. Numerous philosophers and thinkers tried to provide their own idea describing this word.

Yet, there are still many treatments of the term that imply a strong feeling of affection to a certain person or object. However, the given definition is not complete as it does not provide the information about the nature, peculiarities, and manifestations of these feelings which are impacted by the appreciated values. For these reasons, every period of our history could be characterized by a unique perspective on the question of love.

Ancient Greece and Rome were great civilized states which created great cultural heritage and promoted the appearance of numerous sciences, terms, ideas, etc. Greece is traditionally considered the motherland of classic philosophy, which predetermined the further development of human thought greatly. Moreover, they had a unique mentality that conditioned their attitude to love, sex, and marriage. The majority of the Greeks did not refuse pleasures and appreciated love and sex.

The family was the main social institution in ancient Greece; however, this fact did not prevent them from debauch and carnal pleasures. Being the main actors of the Greek society, males were encouraged to experiment with sex and chose various partners (Velaidum 2015).

Females, on the contrary, had to remain virgins and faithful. Yet, the given pattern resulted in the shift of priorities to physical love and marriage was a practical affair that had to empower a certain family (Marriages in Ancient Greece n.d). Moreover, the dominant point of view conditioned the further development of the freedom of convictions and justification of numerous sexual contacts which were taken as an integral part of society. Homosexuality was taken as the common practice as a great number of men were attracted by young boys (Vrissmitzis 1999).

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Ancient Rome was the greatest Empire of that period of time which had an overwhelming impact on the whole civilized world. For this reason, the Romans point of view on marriage, love, and sex was dominant. However, having conquered ancient Greece, Pax Romana inherited numerous aspects of its culture and philosophy. People of the Empire also considered sex as one of the greatest carnal pleasures and accepted various sexual contacts and experiments.

The choice of the marriage partner was conditioned by the social status and theoretical benefits. It also helped ambitious men to attain success and obtain a significant post. Moreover, the marriage also had to produce family and children which were crucial aspects of Roman society (Velaidum 2015). Additionally, the existence of concubines and prostitutes provides information about the moral and attitude to love, sex, and their manifestations. Males were expected to dominate and emphasize their sexuality. All these facts evidence that ancient Greece and Rome had a similar attitude to the issue of love as people belonged to the same culture and had a number of common traits.

Nevertheless, there are numerous outstanding ancient Greek philosophers who cogitated about the nature of various feelings and presented the important information that helped to form the image of the given epoch. Socrates was among them. He still remains one of the most significant ancient thinkers who changed our vision of the world. Yet, his ideas were revolutionary and not accepted by the majority of the Greeks (The Intellectual Revolution n.d).

He was among the first to appreciate the female beauty and condemn pederasty peculiar to Greek society. He did not have relations with male partners as he emphasized the great significance of real love and traditional relations between man and woman. At the same time, Socrates also promoted the male friendship stating the fact that these sorts of relations could help to improve society. These unusual approaches resulted in the disregard of his ideas; however, his great contribution to the development of the idea of love and moral could hardly be overestimated.

Aristotle was another great thinker who contributed to the development of ancient thought greatly. Moreover, being interested in the question of love, he suggested his own vision, stating that friendship (philia) should be considered the highest form of love as it provided numerous benefits for both partners (Shields 2015). In his work Ethics, Aristotle emphasizes the great importance of the given phenomenon and suggests several factors that should prove this idea (Shields 2015).

According to him, friendship contributes to the development of all partners as it is deprived of numerous prejudices peculiar to love. It helps individuals to show their real feelings and emotions. Moreover, friendship is not based on various pragmatic affairs and just creates a certain bond between people who find each other attractive.

The further evolution of society and religion introduced a new attitude towards such issues as love, sex, and marriage. The Middle Ages created the new moral and provided the new values which had to be appreciated by society. Marriage became the main institution that was appreciated by the church (McCarthy 2003). It was also taken as the only legally accepted form of love as sex and other material pleasures were taken as sinful. The strict moral resulted in the creation of a certain code that prohibited demonstrations of sexual desire, naked body, etc. The struggle against lust also triggered the reconsideration of the approach to various contacts and promoted the enforcement of morals.

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Altogether, the attitude to love, sex, and marriage has changed in the course of our history. Numerous societies created their own approaches to these questions, trying to satisfy existed needs and create the basis for the further development of the community. These ideas were conditioned by the peculiarities of religion, morals, and mentality.

Reference List

Marriages in Ancient Greece n.d. Web.

McCarthy, C 2003, Love, Sex and Marriage in the Middle Ages: A Sourcebook, Routledege, New York.

Shields, C 2015, ‘Aristotle,The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.

The Intellectual Revolution. n.d. Web.

Velaidum, J 2015, Myth of Love, Sex, and Marriage. Web.

Vrissmitzis, N 1999, Love, Sex and Marriage in Ancient Greece: A Guide to the Private Life of the Ancient Greeks, Nikolaos A Vrissimtzism, Athens, Greece.

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